Wellbeing Listening and Learning Difficulties
July 22, 2021

As part of the Community Listener Programme Marina Baker (and Siobhan Davies) explored how best to support people with learning difficulties in Wareham. If you would like to be involved in the Community Listener take a look here. Programme Here is the project written in Marina’s words:

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ACTION FOR WAREHAM PROJECT
Siobhan and I have created a project to support people with Learning Disabilities and the wider community of Wareham. Siobhan created and leads the Community Credit Scheme (see details below) and I have developed community links within Wareham through my work with the Volunteer Centre as part of the Support & Development Team, as an Ambassador for the Community Credit Scheme and through coaching/ link working in the Purbecks. We felt that this project would help develop Wellbeing Listening and connection for everyone within the Community and enable people with Learning Disabilities to be heard and seen within the Community.

The Community Credit Scheme
Supports adults (over the age of 16) with learning disabilities into volunteering. The Scheme offers the opportunity for volunteers and mentors to work on projects together and reach achievable goals. In return they get time credits that can be ‘spent’ on an activity of their choice. The aim of the CCS is to break down the exclusion that people with learning disabilities can face and provide the support they need to make their volunteering a success whether the aim is going into paid work or leaning new skills.

Through Covid times it has been difficult for people with Learning Disabilities to volunteer and to engage so easily within their communities for a variety of reasons

  • lack of suitable volunteering roles,
  • needing support to volunteer
  • lack of internet connection
  • vulnerability to COVID

Aims and Objectives

  • To establish a wellbeing listening project – to listen to the Community of Wareham to see how we could integrate, support and empower people, including those with Learning Disabilities within the Community, so that they have a voice and are seen to be actively involved in the town.
  • To work with different elements of the Community to create and develop connection and a sense of shared purpose and to give the opportunity for people to come together to share ideas.
  • Inclusion and raising awareness of people with Learning Disabilities – we have been told a group of 20 people with Learning Disabilities will be moving to the town and we wanted to find out what support they felt they needed and how to support them.
  • To help foster and generate relationships between different groups to best support and enable people to lead fulfilling, healthy and happy lives.
  • To create a safe space where people can meet regularly and feel valued and heard.
  • Develop and train Wellbeing Listeners within the town.

How we have done this?
Initial Meeting

We started by listening – inviting volunteers and people with links within the Community to an initial meeting to hear:

  • what people wanted
  • to generate, create and share ideas and relationships.
  • to assess interest and commitment to the project.

This generated a flow of ideas, excitement and enthusiasm and suggestions for inviting further contacts and organisations to our first Action Group Meeting. These suggestions included a member of Dorset Council, the Commissioner of the Better Days Project who is interested in supporting community projects in Wareham and links with the local PCN surgeries who support people with Learning Disabilities. Members of the group suggested monitoring and evaluation ideas so we could assess how the project was benefitting people.
We have a representative of the learning disability community and are looking for people with learning disabilities so we can support them by listening and helping them achieve what they want.

Our team/ partnership involves

  • The Volunteer Centre Dorset.
  • Volunteers – individuals, ambassadors, mentors/ befrienders, a local artist and volunteers with local knowledge and involved in different groups within the town.
  • People First Dorset – speaking up groups.
  • Leonard Cheshire – walking/ Nature project.
  • Help & Care – social prescribing, health & wellbeing coaches and link workers
  • Dorset Council.
  • Links with the local PCN and surgeries.
  • A local community café.

Our second meeting resulted in setting regular meeting dates, hopefully at a local Community café as lockdown lifts and for events to be held going forwards to engage the Community with the project. We also looked at creative ideas to raise awareness about what we are doing which included the name of the group and how to promote it via posters, social media, an app, local online newsletter, artwork and design.

Challenges.

COVID and lockdowns have meant that the group has been unable to meet face to face in the venue. To overcome this we have conducted meetings over Zoom and Teams and now we have organised events to be held outside and within the venue discussed at the first meeting.

Going forwards

  • We are looking forward being able to meet in person as restrictions lift.
  • Developing further links with the local council, businesses and charities – we have approached a member of the Town Council to get involved with the project.
  • We are aiming to include more people with learning disabilities to make sure we are hearing and addressing what they would like us all to work on together.
  • A local community café is now involved and we shall be having regular weekly/ fortnightly gatherings. We will be discussing the possibility of discounted teas and coffees so people can pop in and share a cuppa and a chat – very much wellbeing listening, person centred conversations and creating a safe space for people to feel confident to express their thoughts and share time with others.
  • Members of the action group will attend the regular meetings to listen for wellbeing and to help people with ideas about volunteering and other things happening in the community. At the end of June, we are holding an outdoor community lunch which we have organised
  • We have a provisional date in July and are organising a special event to help support the local community to ease back into meeting up and getting together
    The project will continue for the next four years through support from the Volunteer Centre Dorset via lottery funding.

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This Action For Wareham project was inspired through the Community Listener Programme at Inner Compass Guide CIC. For more information on our programmes take a look here.

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Liz Scott & Stu Newberry are trainers, coaches and speakers. They work with individuals and groups across the UK. They also help develop coaching cultures (founded on wellbeing) within schools and organisations.

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